Author Topic: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?  (Read 1516 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline ccexplore

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 4690
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2017, 02:46:54 am »
My own approach to level pack creation is very pragmatic: Make lots of levels without worrying about their difficulty, then sort them into ranks roughly according to their difficulty and finally rearrange them according to player feedback. I know that at least some others here use basically the same approach, so we should ask ourselves: Did the creators of L1 and ONML do basically the same thing, and just didn't do enough rearrangements at the end? The very chaotic order of the levels in which they were stored in the DOS version of L1 seems to suggest exactly that. So looking for defining characteristics of Taxing/Wicked levels might not yield good results. :P

Honestly, it would be very hard to imagine anyone creating 80 levels (ignoring the repeats) in a perfect or near-perfect difficulty order right on the outset.  Therefore it is much more likely that the levels are rearranged at least a few times before settling into the current in-game ordering.  It's also possible that they may intentionally interspersed some slightly easier levels every now and then to avoid the hard levels getting too discouraging (after all, if you can't skip to the next level, getting stuck really means you're stuck, and having some "breather" levels may be good to keep the player encouraged).

Judging and perhaps more importantly, tweaking level difficulty is perhaps also harder for a game like Lemmings.  For platformers it's often just about the number of enemies plus how fast and hard they attack you and can withstood attack, plus less forgiving movements required (eg. smaller platforms you are proned to slip off of, say).  RPGs are in particular a case where you can often easily tweak the difficulty by tweaking the stats of your enemies relative to the expected progression of stats and capabilities of your players at particular points in the game.  For a Lemmings-like game, while we've been able to identify some ways (like on this very discussion thread) for which a level is likely more difficult than another, I think in general it can be harder to judge or tweak difficulties, especially if you also have to worry about things like backroutes.  This is especially the case if you want to focus the difficult more on finding a solution and less on ease of execution.  Some of the more obvious ways to tweak a level's difficulty include higher save requirements and less skills given (or particular types of skills not available altogether), all of which are in fact used with the official levels (especially in L1 where the earlier-ranked levels are often easier repeats of later levels with more generous skillset and save requirements).  Even then, those methods tend to either create much easier levels, or else resulting in a level that isn't really all that different difficulty-wise, and thus rarely creates a situation where you can meaningfully fine-tune the difficulty.

Offline Nessy

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 148
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2017, 03:09:58 pm »
Make lots of levels without worrying about their difficulty, then sort them into ranks roughly according to their difficulty and finally rearrange them according to player feedback.

This does make sense. If you design a level with a "it's going to be a final rank level" state of mind then you limit your creative freedom and miss out on a chance to make a really solid level that will be great for another rank or something.


Honestly, it would be very hard to imagine anyone creating 80 levels (ignoring the repeats) in a perfect or near-perfect difficulty order right on the outset.  Therefore it is much more likely that the levels are rearranged at least a few times before settling into the current in-game ordering.  It's also possible that they may intentionally interspersed some slightly easier levels every now and then to avoid the hard levels getting too discouraging (after all, if you can't skip to the next level, getting stuck really means you're stuck, and having some "breather" levels may be good to keep the player encouraged).

Yes, I would imagine that no one can create 80 or 120 levels with a perfect difficulty order, just because of the nature of the game. Your example of RPGs was a good example as the difficulty can be tweaked with higher stats and higher AI throughout the procession of the game, but for something like Lemmings there are just more factors to be considered and its difficulty progression can't all be done on the first go.
Official Projects:
Lemmings Migration - A pack of 40 levels using classic skills

In Development:
Lemmings Reloaded -  A pack of reimagined official levels

Nessy's YouTube Channel

Offline nin10doadict

  • Posts: 134
  • Guy who constantly misses the obvious
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2017, 01:15:36 am »
I find it especially hard to order difficulty of levels properly on the first try. Many times I've made levels that I thought were pretty simple because they just contain one little trick or bit of misdirection that trips up my testers way more than I thought it would. That's why it's good to have multiple people test your levels out; you alone as the level designer are not going to be the best judge of its difficulty because you know how it is supposed to be done. By the same token you can blind yourself to potential backroutes. That has also happened to me many times. ;)

Offline Strato Incendus

  • He who usually only makes it up to rank two
  • Posts: 86
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2017, 11:25:04 pm »
Hi everyone, since I'm currently making my first steps into level design (i.e. I'm getting close to that magical 120 levels-mark where one could turn the whole lot into a pack), I'd like to chime in, especially regarding the "hidden exits" controversy. While I agree that clueless digging in a vast landscape searching for the exit is just exhausting, I'd say as long as a level designer stays true to the "ethics" of the original Lemmings game, this problem shouldn't even occur. And that principle is: Giving enough hints for the search.

IIRC there are only two levels with hidden exits in the original game, three if you consider the Fun version of "X marks the spot". The other one is obviously "Lost something?" Both maps however give quite clear hints about where the exit might be - one even says it in its name, and the other one, "Lost something?", has the platform where the exit is hidden under the dirt as a very exposed location in the level. After all, if I were to play this level for the first time, I'd rather start searching in a small piece of terrain, thereby finding the exit right away in this case, than digging through the entire ground first.

Actually, I kinda like hiding exits now, especially when it makes sense from a "flavour" standpoint, like searching for a treasure on an island (Beach tileset). You could even use the X from the Fire tileset to literally "mark the spot" in this case :D . Another way I like to use them is to simulate "entering into something". Like that ufo from the Space tileset, a building from the Shadow tileset, and so on. Just give enough hints to point the player towards that special piece of terrain.

My brother who has spent a lot more time playing the original games than I did has already agreed to playtest my levels, so I'll see how long it will take him to find the exits. I hope I made it obvious enough, if not I might have to add in some more hints. But I don't see the point in cutting this feature categorically. Especially when creating levels for adept Lemmings players, I like to make them think outside the box. Like diving beneath a trap trigger using stoners to force the swimmers down. Or using Zombies with skills (e.g. Disarmer) to your own advantage :D . (Was really sorry to find out they can't trigger pickup-skills or exit unlock-buttons ^^. But at least they interact with traps and teleporters.)

Finally, concerning "hidden traps":
Remember that Nessie tilepiece from the Highland set? It is originally just terrain, but I used to think it was a trap since I confused it with the chameleon / lizard from the Oh No-Rock-Set. But funnily enough, you can actually turn Nessie into a trap by putting that chameleon head behind it. Since both are green, it even looks quite convincing when it opens its jaw.
Would you guys consider that a "hidden" trap already? ;) I mean, that Nessie does look kinda like it's up to no good anyway, doesn't it? :D

Yeah, you might get surprised the first time you step on the trigger that Nessie has suddenly become hungry :D , but then you will certainly remember. In original Lemmings it would lead to not more than a single restart; in NeoLemmix, with the rewind feature, shouldn't that be even less of a problem? ;)
My packs so far:
Paralems, a more flavour-driven one, 150 levels
Pit Lems, a more puzzly one, 100 levels

Offline Nessy

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 148
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2017, 02:42:50 am »
I just realized that I never gave my opinion about hidden exits/traps.

Well, personally I don't like hidden traps. On some levels I was okay with it at best, but on other levels like that icicle trap in the first level of Havoc it was just stupid and unnecessary and added nothing meaningful to the level. Regarding hidden exits I was never a fan myself but I do understand what your saying about using hints like the alternate exit in "X Marks The Spot". I actually found it more annoying when you reach an exit that you can clearly see but a few pixels of terrain is covering the exit trigger area (I'm looking at some of the snow levels from Oh No! More Lemmings :XD:).

Remember that Nessie tilepiece from the Highland set? It is originally just terrain, but I used to think it was a trap since I confused it with the chameleon / lizard from the Oh No-Rock-Set. But funnily enough, you can actually turn Nessie into a trap by putting that chameleon head behind it. Since both are green, it even looks quite convincing when it opens its jaw.
Would you guys consider that a "hidden" trap already? ;) I mean, that Nessie does look kinda like it's up to no good anyway, doesn't it? :D

Ha ha, I thought the same exact thing when I first played. Regarding whether it would be a good trap is a bit in the gray. On one hand the Nessie does look suspicious enough, but on the other hand we know it isn't a trap so someone might still get caught off when it suddenly becomes one. I think it would be a good idea to introduce it at the beginning of an early level right off the bat to show players that it's going to be used as a trap.
Official Projects:
Lemmings Migration - A pack of 40 levels using classic skills

In Development:
Lemmings Reloaded -  A pack of reimagined official levels

Nessy's YouTube Channel

Offline namida

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 7898
    • View Profile
    • NeoLemmix Website
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #20 on: August 12, 2017, 02:46:39 am »
It's worth noting that newer versions of NeoLemmix make hidden / misleading stuff quite pointless - the player can very quickly locate and detect it by using Clear Physics Mode, which basically takes away any graphical abstraction and reveals the raw functional aspects of the level. You can, of course, ask the player not to do so, but there's no way to outright prevent it - and there are no plans to add such an option either (it would defeat the purpose of having such a mode in the first place).

Offline IchoTolot

  • Posts: 1101
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #21 on: August 12, 2017, 09:05:57 am »
While I agree that clueless digging in a vast landscape searching for the exit is just exhausting, I'd say as long as a level designer stays true to the "ethics" of the original Lemmings game, this problem shouldn't even occur. And that principle is: Giving enough hints for the search.

1.) We aren't staying true to the "ethics" of the original Lemmings games anymore. NeoLemmix and Lix are developing into a pure puzzle game. That's why we actively patch out and fix things that getting in the way of the true puzzle. That starts with percentage based save requirements, goes over the addition of frame-stepping and true physics mode, editing tilesets to make them more clear and so on...

2.) Even with hints it results in a blind digging based on hints that is just there to fool the player and streching out the time for no reason. Furthermore in NeoLemmix a simple press on the button for true physics mode nullifies the whole hiding process as it shows the exits trigger area. And yes the true physics mode even exist's partly for the reason to reveal hidden exits/trap levels --> point 1.)

IIRC there are only two levels with hidden exits in the original game, three if you consider the Fun version of "X marks the spot". The other one is obviously "Lost something?" Both maps however give quite clear hints about where the exit might be - one even says it in its name, and the other one, "Lost something?", has the platform where the exit is hidden under the dirt as a very exposed location in the level. After all, if I were to play this level for the first time, I'd rather start searching in a small piece of terrain, thereby finding the exit right away in this case, than digging through the entire ground first.

"X marks the spot" has 2 visible + rechable exits on the left side making the hidden one kinda pointless. "Lost something" is one of the really pointless levels as it gives you enough skills for days to reach a exit hidden in a very reachable position. Hiding the exit does not change the level here or make it more dificult/interesting in any way.

Actually, I kinda like hiding exits now, especially when it makes sense from a "flavour" standpoint, like searching for a treasure on an island (Beach tileset). You could even use the X from the Fire tileset to literally "mark the spot" in this case :D . Another way I like to use them is to simulate "entering into something". Like that ufo from the Space tileset, a building from the Shadow tileset, and so on. Just give enough hints to point the player towards that special piece of terrain.

My brother who has spent a lot more time playing the original games than I did has already agreed to playtest my levels, so I'll see how long it will take him to find the exits. I hope I made it obvious enough, if not I might have to add in some more hints. But I don't see the point in cutting this feature categorically. Especially when creating levels for adept Lemmings players, I like to make them think outside the box. Like diving beneath a trap trigger using stoners to force the swimmers down. Or using Zombies with skills (e.g. Disarmer) to your own advantage :D . (Was really sorry to find out they can't trigger pickup-skills or exit unlock-buttons ^^. But at least they interact with traps and teleporters.)

Here you miss the point of creating a lemmings puzzle. It's not about searching a treasure, it's about clever (not blindly) altering terrain with the help of lemming abilities to make a path from (known) point A to (known) point B. An X makes the hiding aspect even more pointless as a little visible cave with a 100% visible exits accomplishes the same.

Don't make a fool out of your brother! Be fair to him and beat him with a true puzzle, not mindless searches. If he encounters such a level he really should just press the true physics button and solve it in a second. :8():
Hiding stuff is also not thinking outside the box, it's just making a fool out of the player. Thinking outside of the box is using skills or a combination of skills in a manner that they aren't usually used. The builder+miner trick would be an example.

Finally, concerning "hidden traps":
Remember that Nessie tilepiece from the Highland set? It is originally just terrain, but I used to think it was a trap since I confused it with the chameleon / lizard from the Oh No-Rock-Set. But funnily enough, you can actually turn Nessie into a trap by putting that chameleon head behind it. Since both are green, it even looks quite convincing when it opens its jaw.
Would you guys consider that a "hidden" trap already? ;) I mean, that Nessie does look kinda like it's up to no good anyway, doesn't it? :D

Yeah, you might get surprised the first time you step on the trigger that Nessie has suddenly become hungry :D , but then you will certainly remember. In original Lemmings it would lead to not more than a single restart; in NeoLemmix, with the rewind feature, shouldn't that be even less of a problem? ;)

Making nessy a trap in some of the levels is one of the worst things you can do. Either nessy is a trap or isn't. Nothing inconsistent in between. Yes there is again true physics mode, but what is terrain and what's a trap should be consistent. Once you learned X is terrain, X should always be terrain. Because of the rule of consistency it's 100% a hidden trap. Players learned A and got B because of manipulation.
----> Please don't do it! Even with rewind it's still annoying as hell, especially if you formed a solution in your head before executing and the hidden trap got in your way! :devil:


Over all the old sin of hiding exits/traps is actively developed against with rewinding and true physics mode and we are today at a point where hiding stuff is only a annoyance and can be counteracted ---> why adding annoyances to your pack and actively make it worse? True physics is always there to counteract these things and make them not adding anything positive to the level.

Don't make your stuff worse! Out with hidden traps and exits! :8():      Rely on Entropy and tricks to form your puzzle.

I've played most of the original games and thousands (I am not overexaggerating here) of custom levels, which includes most of the packs uploaded on this site where I am also mentioned in the credits as a pre-release tester. I really want to advice you to free your pack from hidden things, they are no good to you. That was one of the things I learned and understood first when I came here  :)

Offline Strato Incendus

  • He who usually only makes it up to rank two
  • Posts: 86
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #22 on: August 12, 2017, 10:19:25 am »
I'd rather tend to making Nessie a trap consistenly then. However, it still differs from a normal trap, because the head is terrain you can walk on while other traps are just objects that can be walked through.

There is however some inconsistency in the tilesets themselves. Take for example the Menacing set: There are snakes that are terrain and there are snakes that are traps (the ones looking sideways). A first time player will still need some time to figure this out, especially since you can't walk at all on the heads of the trap snakes, while the others are stable terrain.

The features like replay, rewinding and true physics mode are blessing and curse at the same time, I'd say. For me, they are mainly "anti frustration tools", saving you from annoyances. Purists of the original game would probably consider them cheats; you could make a case that in the original Lemmings, the frustration of missing an activation at a crucial point was part of the experience of the game.

Also, what the point of a level is is kinda subjective, isn't it? Take the cross promotion levels from Lemmings (Beasts, Menacing, and Awesome). None of them is particularly difficult, but they look cool, they have an unexpected change of music, they just mix things up.

I understand your point of view of NeoLemmix being all about puzzles, since I used to play Star Wars: Pit Droids back in the day (or now again on the iPad). There the levels are even called "puzzles" and you have to place all skills beforehand (=like "before Lemmings even come out of the trap door"). It's all about "solve in your head first, then execute". However, the type of challenge these puzzles pose is always very similar. There are no "quick reaction" challenges in Pit Droids, there is barely "learning by doing" or "trial and error".

In NeoLemmix, also levels like We all fall down are pointless, because it's totally obvious what you have to do and you can play the entire level with the pause button switched on, rewind every time a single lemming splats etc. But just because you can, should you? It's clear this wasn't the point of the original level. It's the old "with great power comes great responsibility" thing ;) .

The NeoLemmix features imho are both an argument for and against "annoyances". You could say it makes them pointless, or you could say it makes them unproblematic, because whenever one is fed up searching for the exit, they can use the true physics tool, while those who like this type of level can keep on trying the "original" way, a.k.a. the hard way ;) .

I used to create levels in WinLems, which doesn't have these features and only has manual steel rendering. This invited me to create levels wih bashable steel - or with normal terrain that can't be bashed through. So I created this level called "Hallowed Ground"; it even says in the title that there might be a reason this doesn't work as usual ;) . Yes, my brother had to rethink for a second, but he made it through without major frustration.

PS: "X marks the spot" also has a hidden trap, that fire trap, that is even hidden behind a supposed exit on the left side. The level gives you a hint for the exit on the right, but at the same time fools you to believe there were exits behind the Xs on the left, too - instead, one has nothing behind it, and the other one, even worse, has a trap instead. Oops, the first time you try, you're screwed - but then you'll remember.
My packs so far:
Paralems, a more flavour-driven one, 150 levels
Pit Lems, a more puzzly one, 100 levels

Offline IchoTolot

  • Posts: 1101
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #23 on: August 12, 2017, 11:55:38 am »
I'd rather tend to making Nessie a trap consistenly then. However, it still differs from a normal trap, because the head is terrain you can walk on while other traps are just objects that can be walked through.

There is however some inconsistency in the tilesets themselves. Take for example the Menacing set: There are snakes that are terrain and there are snakes that are traps (the ones looking sideways). A first time player will still need some time to figure this out, especially since you can't walk at all on the heads of the trap snakes, while the others are stable terrain.

That misses the point: If YOU make nessy consistently a trap, it breaks the consistency with all other levels. Also for me I must say nessy never seem much trappy to begin with. There is only one snake in the menacing tileset that is a trap and it comes with a trigger activation button and rages above facing the lemmings like no other snake. It's still not a perfect trap though.

The features like replay, rewinding and true physics mode are blessing and curse at the same time, I'd say. For me, they are mainly "anti frustration tools", saving you from annoyances. Purists of the original game would probably consider them cheats; you could make a case that in the original Lemmings, the frustration of missing an activation at a crucial point was part of the experience of the game.

Also, what the point of a level is is kinda subjective, isn't it? Take the cross promotion levels from Lemmings (Beasts, Menacing, and Awesome). None of them is particularly difficult, but they look cool, they have an unexpected change of music, they just mix things up.

No curse, all blessing. It makes levels with hidden stuff bearable and even superfluous.

The hidden trap/exit discussion came up time and time again and those levels vanished over time in favor of pure puzzle levels. They left because people were more and more fed up with them and became nearly extinct. The point of the level in today's Lix and NeoLemmix culture is the puzzle itself, not the execution, everything was developed in that direction and levels like Awesome are simply easy puzzles with good visulas.

The general experience of the game changed as well. If you want the excecution to be relevant again then the old Lemmix player or Lemmini suites that purpose. NeoLemmix and Lix aren't made for the pure Purist experience.

I understand your point of view of NeoLemmix being all about puzzles, since I used to play Star Wars: Pit Droids back in the day (or now again on the iPad). There the levels are even called "puzzles" and you have to place all skills beforehand (=like "before Lemmings even come out of the trap door"). It's all about "solve in your head first, then execute". However, the type of challenge these puzzles pose is always very similar. There are no "quick reaction" challenges in Pit Droids, there is barely "learning by doing" or "trial and error".

In NeoLemmix, also levels like We all fall down are pointless, because it's totally obvious what you have to do and you can play the entire level with the pause button switched on, rewind every time a single lemming splats etc. But just because you can, should you? It's clear this wasn't the point of the original level. It's the old "with great power comes great responsibility" thing ;) .

If a game gives you the tools, I will use them at all times. If I can, I will. This wasn't the point of the original level? Well then it's outdated and should either be culled or reedited. And yes the original isn't holy for me anymore, we are much better as the original games today. I can proudly say that.

The NeoLemmix features imho are both an argument for and against "annoyances". You could say it makes them pointless, or you could say it makes them unproblematic, because whenever one is fed up searching for the exit, they can use the true physics tool, while those who like this type of level can keep on trying the "original" way, a.k.a. the hard way ;) .

I used to create levels in WinLems, which doesn't have these features and only has manual steel rendering. This invited me to create levels wih bashable steel - or with normal terrain that can't be bashed through. So I created this level called "Hallowed Ground"; it even says in the title that there might be a reason this doesn't work as usual ;) . Yes, my brother had to rethink for a second, but he made it through without major frustration.

PS: "X marks the spot" also has a hidden trap, that fire trap, that is even hidden behind a supposed exit on the left side. The level gives you a hint for the exit on the right, but at the same time fools you to believe there were exits behind the Xs on the left, too - instead, one has nothing behind it, and the other one, even worse, has a trap instead. Oops, the first time you try, you're screwed - but then you'll remember.

They are never unproblematic! They still disturb the flow of the level and the solving process, just to a lesser degree. And no searching blindly for an exit is not the hard way, it's the annoying way. Hard would be an unobvoius fair solution to even get to the visible exit in the first place. There are differences in the term difficulty. Hiding stuff is the false and annoying way. 

Yes, we all made those levels back in the day, realised they are, let's say, "subobtimal" and improved since then.

Sry never thought about ANY of the Xes in X marks the spot. Just went for the visible exits and solved the level. "The first time you're screwed" and that's 1 time too much! The creators lied to the players just to waste their time!


You can create difficulty so much better with fair tools. Don't believe me? Play the last levels of NepsterLems in the Black Hole rating for example and you will see the true pure meaning of fair difficulty! ;)
http://www.lemmingsforums.net/index.php?topic=2508.0



Offline Proxima

  • Posts: 3005
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #24 on: August 12, 2017, 01:39:19 pm »
Take for example the Menacing set: There are snakes that are terrain and there are snakes that are traps (the ones looking sideways). A first time player will still need some time to figure this out, especially since you can't walk at all on the heads of the trap snakes, while the others are stable terrain.

That's good feedback -- but on this forum, the response is more likely to be "okay, let's improve the tileset" rather than "okay, let's make more tilesets with similar mistakes".

Quote
Purists of the original game would probably consider them cheats; you could make a case that in the original Lemmings, the frustration of missing an activation at a crucial point was part of the experience of the game.

This goes back to my point (on the previous page) that NeoLemmix and Lix are a different genre from original Lemmings. Yes, it was very much a part of the original game that some levels required placing skills precisely ("Livin' on the Edge") or estimating walking bombers, and the fact that you had to try until you got it right served as an incentive for mastering these skills. NeoLemmix is designed to be a different experience, for a different audience.

As I mentioned, the early levels of original Lemmings cue the player in as to what to expect for the rest of the game: lots of trapping the crowd and paving the way with a single lemming, and any low ceiling might conceal a trap. For new players who start with the NeoLemmix introduction pack, this instead cues the player to expect the kind of levels the present-day community is designing for NeoLemmix.

Quote
In NeoLemmix, also levels like We all fall down are pointless, because it's totally obvious what you have to do and you can play the entire level with the pause button switched on, rewind every time a single lemming splats etc. But just because you can, should you? It's clear this wasn't the point of the original level. It's the old "with great power comes great responsibility" thing ;) .

Well, that's why "We all fall down" is an original Lemmings level, not a NeoLemmix level. If you want, you can have a look at the Lemmings Redux project; it's not finished, but we've put together the "best" 150 levels of the original games (including Oh No, Genesis etc) and compiled them into a single pack. When it's done, we will encourage new NeoLemmix users who want to experience the original levels to play them in this version. Of course, "best" just means according to the tastes of this community -- and potential newcomers who want to experience this kind of gameplay.

Quote
Also, what the point of a level is is kinda subjective, isn't it? Take the cross promotion levels from Lemmings (Beasts, Menacing, and Awesome). None of them is particularly difficult, but they look cool, they have an unexpected change of music, they just mix things up.

It's absolutely subjective (and I loved those levels when I was a kid -- except Menacing because I hated its music, although I kind of like it now). (Several NeoLemmix packs do include special graphics / music levels, and we've decided to keep them in the Redux pack.)

However, if you release content to the NeoLemmix community, to a certain extent you have to conform to the community's tastes, especially as you'll find a couple of people (like IchoTolot above) who are extremely outspoken about what they like and don't like.

Quote
You could say it makes them pointless, or you could say it makes them unproblematic, because whenever one is fed up searching for the exit, they can use the true physics tool, while those who like this type of level can keep on trying the "original" way, a.k.a. the hard way.

When I was a kid first playing original Lemmings, it felt like time was unlimited and I could spend as much as I wanted playing games. Now, though? Give me a hidden exit and a single click that reveals it, and I'll hit it every time.

Offline Strato Incendus

  • He who usually only makes it up to rank two
  • Posts: 86
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #25 on: August 12, 2017, 03:01:14 pm »
Okay, it's certainly good to now the priorities each community has ;) . I guess I'd just put some kind of disclaimer on my pack if I release it, because it features all kinds of stuff people might take "issue" with. From mechanical stuff like hidden exits and reaction speed to extensive use of Zombies to mockery level titles, kinda like with "All the 6's" in the original.

Players just should know in advance what they're signing up for :) , so everyone can choose and try the packs they are going to enjoy the most. As long as these aren't "design dogmas" or the admins delete any pack that doesn't conform to the "no time limit/hidden exits or traps/pixel precision" creed, we should be fine, right?

I respect the ambition to be able to solve each level on the first trial by thinking it through. Personally however, I believe the satisfaction about solving it is often even higher when it takes several trials. Something I learned while playing Divinity II: Ego Draconis: You get stuck first with a certain part and believe "this is the point where I'm going to fail and stop". But then, shortly before giving up, you barely make it through. And that's what keeps motivating you and gets you addicted to play through the entire game despite its extensive length.

I feel like that's what people meant by "making your levels 'worse' deliberately": Annoy the player more on purpose first, in order to make success even more rewarding afterwards. There is obviously less instant gratification with that philosophy.

The reason I use NeoLemmix nevertheless rather than other engines is because of the vast choice of tilesets, plus the bonus skills and all the new challenges they offer, like Stoners and Cloners.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2017, 03:06:18 pm by Strato Incendus »
My packs so far:
Paralems, a more flavour-driven one, 150 levels
Pit Lems, a more puzzly one, 100 levels

Offline Proxima

  • Posts: 3005
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #26 on: August 12, 2017, 03:58:38 pm »
I respect the ambition to be able to solve each level on the first trial by thinking it through. Personally however, I believe the satisfaction about solving it is often even higher when it takes several trials.

Icho's point is that, as a benchmark to distinguish fair from unfair difficulty, we can ask: Could a perfect solver work out the level just from looking it over and thinking it out?, i.e. all the information needed to solve the level should be presented.

That doesn't mean we are perfect solvers! On the contrary, a big part of the enjoyment of modern levels is that feeling of being stuck, trying things out and slowly probing towards a solution, and then getting a sudden flash of insight that makes the various things you've been trying click together.

Offline Strato Incendus

  • He who usually only makes it up to rank two
  • Posts: 86
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #27 on: August 12, 2017, 05:40:51 pm »
I know nobody claims to be a perfect solver. Instead, the idea is that a hypothetical perfect solver should be able to tackle a level right away, i.e. a perfect solver shouldn't have to practice a level. In reality however, as we know, practice makes perfect. So of course there should be things to figure out right away just by looking at them. I don't see the problem however with having to "go" somewhere (=i.e. "send a lemming there") to find out about some of the remaining stuff. The state of looking at the level while the trap door is still closed is kinda the "ivory tower"; then you unleash the horde and oops... reality might interfer with what you first came up with at the drawing board :D .

To me this is a bit like playing chess vs. playing Magic: The Gathering :) . In chess, all the options are on the table all the time, for everyone to see, and it can only be each player's individual fault for not seeing something. In Magic, you might also have a strategy from the getgo - but your opponent still has something to contribute. In Lemmings, your opponent is the level ;) , and all the traps, tricks and nasty surprises it has up its sleeve. And since I enjoy playing Magic more than I do playing chess, I think it's obvious why I also favour levels that occasionally have such "surprises" in them that mess up your entire preceding strategy.

A thing about "snowed in"-exits, i.e. where you can see the exit, but the trigger is buried: I just finished working on a level where the exit trigger being buried in the ground actually made the level easier than without. I had a basher digging through several pillars, while the gaps in between had to be closed by stoners simultaneously (pretty cool timing / multi-tasking thing there). This makes the basher dig all the way through (you only have a single one). Now, without the buried trigger, the basher would bash past it and thereby make the exit inaccessible. The only remaining skills were bombers, and bombing the basher somehow altered the terrain in a way that did not create "mini-steps" for lemmings to walk over, so they were stuck right beneath the exit. By flushing the trigger into the ground however, the basher who cannot be stopped anyway sort of makes the exit accessible by accident :D . And once he hits it, him exiting the level stops him from bashing.

Also, at the beginning of that level, the lemmings fall onto a splat pad right from the trap door. There's an anti-splat pad hidden in the ground right underneath. The player doesn't know this. But since you don't have any floaters or gliders, only bombers at the start, and the lemmings fall from the trap door right to their doom, there's not much else you can try to do before you find out the pad is there. ;)
My packs so far:
Paralems, a more flavour-driven one, 150 levels
Pit Lems, a more puzzly one, 100 levels

Offline IchoTolot

  • Posts: 1101
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #28 on: August 12, 2017, 10:08:38 pm »
No one will ever delete any pack/topic , because it contains unliked levels.

The only thing we do is to give feedback and advice based on our experiences here.

I am known for being very direct (well in fact most german people are on this site ;P), I rather speak about my true opinion on something rather than being silent even if I can sound kinda harsh. If I see packs/levels which can be improved, I say something and I don't lie to your face.

If you want to hide stuff I cannot stop you or anyone else, I only can tell you about my experiences, the reasons why it's better not to dot it and to focus on the honest things which give the levels their true beauty.

Offline Strato Incendus

  • He who usually only makes it up to rank two
  • Posts: 86
    • View Profile
Re: Level Design: What Makes A Level Challenging?
« Reply #29 on: August 13, 2017, 10:13:12 am »
@IchoTolot: Ich hätte jetzt nicht unbedingt gedacht, dass das eine typisch deutsche Eigenschaft ist, aber ich begrüße es auf jeden Fall! ;)

(Translation: I didn't necessarily consider directness a typically German quality, but I welcome it anyway.)

I will obviously consider removing or refining levels from my pack if they turn out to be "too mean" by several people's standards. That's something always difficult to estimate for the creator of a level who knows where all the mean things are. Apart from that, I'll see where my pack goes and probably it will just become something different for in between all the puzzling the other packs provide.

I've looked at the Black Hole level you mentioned (I guess "Mining Company" was the one you meant), and I get that this is the way to get the maximum out of especially the classic 8 skills, using those in new and creative ways.

In my pack I want to focus more on the new skills, or a healthy mixture of old and new skills, plus all the new objects, like Zombies, radiation etc., and all the whacky things you can do with them. That's what I meant by "making seasoned players think outside the box". It's less about "how do I use this familiar tool in new ways", instead "how can I learn to use this new tool effectively in the first place?"
Radiation and slowfreeze, if not handled precisely, are just another form of traps that kill your Lemmings - even worse so for Zombies. On the other hand, being a glider will save a lemming in one instance and kill it in the next one by sailing right into a trap.
My packs so far:
Paralems, a more flavour-driven one, 150 levels
Pit Lems, a more puzzly one, 100 levels